Indian government holds emergency meeting as Kashmir violence escalates

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made direct control over the disputed Muslim-majority region a leading policy

Indian security forces stand guard in Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, following a spate of killings in the region. AFP
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India’s Home Minister Amit Shah met with top officials in New Delhi on Friday, following a spate of targeted killings in Indian-administered Kashmir.

This comes as hundreds of Hindus have threatened to leave the Muslim-majority Himalayan valley due to the violence.

At least seven people, including non-native Hindu workers, have been killed by suspected militants in the past week, as the highly militarised territory witnesses an upsurge of violence.

Mr Shah met in New Delhi with national security adviser Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir’s lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha and top state police and army officials to assess the situation, following nationwide outrage over the killings.

Extremists in the Muslim-majority region shot dead a Hindu banker from the northern state of Rajasthan inside his office in Kashmir’s southern Kulgam district early on Thursday.

That evening, a brick kiln worker from eastern Bihar state was killed in central Kashmir. Another worker was injured in the attack.

The attacks came within days of the killings of a Hindu teacher, a Muslim social media artist and three off-duty Muslim police officers.

Extremists have killed at least 16 people — including minority Hindus, police officers and politicians — since January, with attacks intensifying in recent weeks.

Street protests

A Kashmiri Hindu government employee was shot dead last month inside his office, triggering street protests by the community amid concerns over their safety.

An overwhelming majority of the region's Hindu community — known as Kashmiri Pandits — left the valley at the beginning of the armed conflict in the early 1990s.

Hundreds have since returned under the government’s special employment schemes.

A similar string of targeted killings by extremists last year had stoked fears among Hindus and prompted criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over its failure to protect lives.

Earlier this week, media reports said dozens of Kashmiri Pandits had left the valley and many more have threatened to flee in the face of intensified militant attacks.

But government forces have blocked them inside their highly protected residential complexes.

The return of Kashmiri Hindus to the valley has remained a major political plank for Mr Modi’s government, which has claimed that normality has returned to the region, following its shock annulment of limited autonomy there.

Mr Modi brought Kashmir under the direct control of New Delhi in 2019.

Political fallout

The recent killings have prompted opposition political parties to attack Mr Modi’s government and his Bharatiya Janata Party for its failure to curb violence, despite draconian security measures.

“Will the govt still parrot the narrative of normalcy or has it internalised its own propaganda … Has peace been 'established’?” the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, a former ruling party, tweeted.

“You [BJP] talked about the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley and fetched votes on the same in the name of Hindutva, Sanjay Raut, leader of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party in western Maharashtra state.

Hindutva is a form of Hindu nationalism.

Mr Modi’s government argued that Kashmir’s autonomy ― outlined by Article 370 of India's constitution — fuelled separatist sentiments in the region that has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, when the British left the subcontinent.

Both the countries claim the region in full, with more than 30 years of violence claiming tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians.

Anti-India political and militant groups have argued that the loss of the limited autonomy — that barred non-natives from acquiring land or any other property — is modelled after Israel’s settler policy.

Critics claim New Delhi is seeking to settle Hindus in the Muslim-majority region to change its demography.

Updated: June 04, 2022, 6:03 AM